“There is only one tower where I know I’d live and be locked up forever, even to die there rather than return the keys – Mogador in Africa.” Paul Claudel
Essaouira, (formerly Mogador) is a walled city dating from the time of the Phoenicians, who named it Migdol or small fortress. In 1506, the city became the seat of a Portuguese fortress and was strengthened by the construction of ramparts.
We started at the fortress, surrounded by gulls who would be hoping for some fishy tidbits later in the day.
A short video at the fortress (Click on the image to watch)
After another delicious lunch, we headed to the fish market – the quantities and varieties just amazed me.
Crabs for sale
Sting rays for sale
Please excuse the way my sketches from this adventure are slowly dribbling in as I continue working on them, in between any new places I find!
Friday was Day 6 in Essaouira – time to get some serious sketching in. Also, serious shopping, serious massages, serious rug buying, you know, important things before we leave!
Karen (from Art Safari) took us down some alleyways to teach us about perspective. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of something, you learn new points that really make a difference!
Here are some of my efforts to practice perspective in my art…
Perspective – Mosque doors
Perspective – arches
Perspective – rug alley
And here’s one that looks as if I learned nothing, hah. Tamusica was an interesting shop with various drums and other musical instruments hanging around.
After Karen found us a colorful rug shop, the owner came out and yes, he did sell some rugs to us. (Not me, I was waiting to purchase mine in Marrakesh.) It’s quite an experience, looking at and buying a rug. You are ushered in, offered tea (which you must accept!), and presented with rug after rug until finally, you either find one you love or are worn down by their persistence! Next comes the bargaining. It’s really different than our big box stores!
Moustafa, a rug seller
And, for my last night in Essouira, I ended up with an upset tummy. By upset tummy I mean I couldn’t go very far from the bathroom. This continued each night until my return to stateside.
Unfortunately, it made me miss the going-away get-together the other folks had that night. They were all flying back to London the next day, and I would be on my way to Marrakesh.
Essaouira day 5 – Thursday
After breakfast, we walked down to the harbor to sketch the boats. They were so blue, and I was so intent on my sketching that I nearly missed a wagon full of sharks being unloaded!
The blue boats of Morocco
Essaouira harbor boats
Lunch today was at Taros, a rooftop restaurant. We noticed a lady eating sea urchins, they come by the dozen, like clams, and apparently are quite delicious. No thank you, I’d rather have my goat cheese and beet roots.
After lunch, to the fort – this time going inside and climbing up to the top for views of the local coast.
The fort at Essaouira
After that, the Essaouira fish market, which was very busy. Similar to the dogs at the meat market, there were many cats and kittens hanging around for scraps.
Essaouira fish market
I did several sketches at the fish market, but will add color and post them later.
(If you missed part 1, you can read it here)
Next we walked over to the adjacent industrious and colorful Berber fruit and vegetable market.
Even though it wasn’t far from the meat market, the 5 minute walk was filled with sights and sounds that I have never seen at home.
Cars, donkeys, trucks, sheep and people going every which way
(There were actually too many things to absorb at once, so I ended up shooting photos and many of my sketches were done later.)
Helping out at the market
Sheep – not sure if they were on their way to the meat market! Hope not!
There is a tent with a barber (a Berber barber, hehe) and always the donkeys and carts. I was fascinated by their tent construction (simple), the scales they used (no batteries needed!) and thoroughly enjoyed the dealings of buyers and sellers.
A pile of carrots – This was typical, to spread them on plastic on the ground.
We found a few spots on a shady hillside to sit and sketch, mine was nestled between two donkeys. At one I was at the ‘wrong’ end, the other, near his head. I became rather infatuated with my nearby friend, as he/she posed rather nicely for me. (Yes, he was tied up, but still, I like to think he would’ve stayed anyway.)
My “neigh”bor – still not sure about the whole donkey/mule thing
Stay tuned for the third and final part of this extraordinary day!
Day 4, Wednesday:
There were SO many new sites and experiences here, so I’m using more than one post for this day.
We left in the morning for a Berber market. These markets are held weekly at each location. First was the meat market, not fun for those who don’t like the sight of dead creatures. The smell of raw meat and blood was strong, and dogs were hanging out to see what pickings they could grab. We didn’t stay there long – a few didn’t seem very happy to have our group taking photos, and we were probably in their way of sales.
To see someone sharpening knives with a stone, and raw meat for sale, just hanging from a stick might seem crude, but this is the way it has always been done here.
I appreciate their natural approach to life.
Day 1 started off with a short art lesson on the roof. Temperatures were comfortable mid 70s the entire week. Karen (of Art Safari) had some really great tips and instructions on perspective, and how to “shrink” people as they get further away, depending if you are sitting or standing. She also gave a few pointers on the different arch types in buildings.
Our first lesson was valuable with so many people around!
Then, we were off exploring this new town. So many sights, sounds, people and creatures – it could have been overwhelming to the senses, but Karen got us sketching first thing, and that definitely got me focused: What do I want to sketch? Study it before starting. Then, just make the lines. Everything else slowly fades away.
After a bit, we all stopped for a break. The mint tea again! Oh joy. I so need to learn to re-create at home. But it’s never the same, is it?
Then more walking, some lunch and more sketching. (Exactly what I came for!) We found (I should say Abdul found it!) a shop that sold spices and watercolor pigments. The owner happily demonstrated the various colors, which several of us went back to purchase later.
Watercolor Pigments such as mogador blue and blue marjorelle
Closed up the afternoon sketching in a square with colorful rugs for sale, displayed on the sidewalk, even hanging from trees!
Ok, I’m spilling the beans. I’m headed to Morocco.
I’m going with artists who take other artists to beautiful locations around the world.
While they are making art, and possibly trying to tutor me, I’ll be doing my usual scribbles, then adding color to them.
For those who have forgotten their geography lessons – here’s where Morocco is. I’ll first get to Madrid, then head over to Marrakesh, then a car ride to Essaouira.
The reason I’m blabbing is because I just saw something that makes me believe that
I’m going on a journey to an apparently magical place.
Why magical? Well, one of the trip coordinators told me to google “goats in argan trees.”
I mean, here, our goats just chill on the ground. Where I’m going, they hang out in trees!
Seen on google maps!
Really? So, obviously, I then wondered about the so-called Marrakesh express and was it a real train, or was it “magical” (or smoke induced) taking you to see magical things like goats in trees.
But apparently, this song is a straightforward description of an actual train ride Graham Nash took in North Africa.
In the beginning, as a wealthy Englishman, he was travelling first class in a luxurious private suite. But after a while, he decided it would be more interesting to move to another car, where ordinary Arabs and poorer tourists ride.
In the back cars, the ordinary Arabs really do travel with their livestock. Nash found that he had a lot more fun travelling among the working class Arabs and lower class tourists than with other rich people. Disclaimer: This may or may not be true. I found it on the World Wide Web. 😉
All aboard that tra-a-ain.
Just know that when I return, and I’m sharing sketches of goats in trees, and magic carpets and purple camels (I just made that up), it’s probably not drug induced, or from those worms that crawl in your ears and slowly eat your brain, although now that I’ve thought about that I might wear earplugs at night. Just in case.
“Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.” – W. C. Fields